Wearing a Mask, and Grounding

13 Ways of Looking at a Mask:
1. When you are in a meeting, people can’t see you yawn.
2. You can stick out your tongue at people who annoy you, and they will never know.
3. Makes you look mysterious.
4. It’s a fashion accessory. Add bling! Make a statement!
5. You can walk down the street talking quietly to yourself, and no one watching would know you’re off your rocker.
6. No one will see your cold sore, or the zit on the end of your nose.
7. It helps to mask bad breath. Go ahead and eat the garlic and onions for lunch! (And if the mask doesn’t work, you’ve got help with the social distancing.)
8. Superheroes wear masks. Maybe you’re a superhero too?
9. Spinach stuck in your teeth? Who cares? You’re wearing a mask!
10. If you are an allergy sufferer, it helps to filter out pollens and allergens that make you snuffly and sneezy.
11. It protects others, and yourself, from getting the virus.
12. It’s been mandated for public health and safety by the PA governor.
13. It’s like wearing a seatbelt, or a bike helmet. It’s like washing your hands before you eat, or wearing shoes and a shirt into a restaurant. It’s basic good common sense.


Some thoughts on Mind/Body and Anxiety:
This might be true for you as well: When I am in times of high anxiety, my brain tends to pull me outside of my sense of being in a body. Anxiety is a mental activity that demands mental energy. The work of the body goes to feed the fluttery brainwork of responding to the sense of crisis.

If you’re like me in this, try some of these things to self-soothe:
* Breathe deeply and intentionally, into your gut, into your toes, into the tips of your fingers.
* Try moving your arms in time with your breath, as if you are the Maestro of Breathing. Begin with your arms at your sides, and raise your arms as you breathe in as if pulling the music to a crescendo. Pause a moment at the peak of motion and inbreath, and then gently and slowly release.
* When you yawn, give yourself to to the process. Yawn deeply and fully.
* Gather a bowlful of smooth stones, and run them through your fingers. Dried corn or beans also work.
* Find a pillow or throw or sweater that has a silky surface or a knubbly texture. Keep it handy to run your fingers across the surface when you feel anxious.
* Pop the bubbles in the bubble wrap.
* Make hot drinks, even in summer. Steam is calming and comforting.
* Find a source of running water–a brook, a fountain, a river. (We bought a water fountain for our cats, and it’s been a soothing sound to listen to.)
* Wake up early enough in the morning to listen to birdsong.
* Load up a calming jam on PC or phone. Sometimes loud and dissonant music can be cathartic, but I would be careful with using it in anxious moments because it can also jar you out of the body on the way to catharsis.
* Find a purring cat.
* Smell the flowers. In public places, don’t worry what people will think if you stop to smell the flowers. Bring flowers inside if you don’t have allergies–smell them.
* Find a couple essential oils that calm and relax you. Add some drops to a little spray bottle of water (a little alcohol in the mix helps to keep the oil from jamming the sprayer), and spray yourself, your pillow, your clothes, your couch. Mist it into the air when you feel yourself getting out of yourself.
* Bake brownies or bread. Make mint tea. Slice an orange. (This will ground you in scent and taste).
* For people like me, the natural response to anxiety is to ground myself through eating. I need to be super careful here. But we, too, can use taste to ground ourselves. Herbal teas with a little honey are grounding without the numbing effect of sugar and carbs. A small handful of nuts or a piece of cheese. A piece of fruit. Extra hot peppers in the dinner plans.
* Surround yourself with color. Paint a picture to hang in your work space. Find a brightly colored rug or cloth with colors that please. Really looking deeply at color can be incredibly grounding. That viney hill and woodsy area out my window is not just “green.” It’s a thousand greens.
* When you are with people, remember to look them in the eyes. Eyes are what we have, now that we cover the rest of our faces. Pause and enjoy the moments of greeting in the day. Let your contacts with people be grounding for you. Phone calls. Messages and conversations through social media. Each of those contacts is a chance to connect deeply to your (and their) human self.


Gratitude List:
1. The catfam all have homes, and we have a plan for Adoption Day at the end of August. This actually makes me sad as well as deeply relieved. It has been a great weight of responsibility to care for and worry about these guests, but I have loved it, and am sad to see them dispersed. Without intervention, we would have four breeding feral cats in the neighborhood, and Mama would drive the youngsters away eventually, and they would be susceptible to disease and coyotes and the road. Instead, they will all have loving homes. Grateful.
2. The goldenrod is beginning to bloom and shine.
3. The work gets done. It sometimes feels frantic and frazzled, but it gets done.
4. Physical comforts. One of my anchors right now is physical comforts: soft and textured fabrics, rich and evocative scents, complex flavor, bright color, haunting and gentle music.
5. Wonderful colleagues.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Words don’t have meaning without context.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates


“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed… because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events… by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” ―Leonard Bernstein


“Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.” —Isaac Asimov


Albert Camus: “If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this one.”


“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” —Joseph Campbell


“We do not have to live as though we are alone.” ―Wendell Berry


“We are made and set here to give voice to our astonishments.” ―Annie Dillard


“Writing is one of the most ancient forms of prayer. To write is to believe communication is possible, that other people are good, that you can awaken their generosity and their desire to do better.” ―Fatema Mernissi


“Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging.” ―Toko-pa Turner


“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
―Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Gertrude Stein defined love as “the skillful audacity required to share an inner life.”


“When your soul awakens, you begin to truly inherit your life. You leave the kingdom of fake surfaces, repetitive talk and weary roles and slip deeper into the true adventure of who you are and who you are called to become.” ―John O’Donohue

Being a Good Citizen

The CDC seems to be recommending mask-wearing if/when we open schools again in the fall. I will wear a mask if that is the recommendation by scientists and health care workers. I will do whatever I can to keep my students and their families a little safer. I’m exploring scarf-mask fashion. I have a couple elastic headbands, and I can fold a scarf around my neck, pull the headband down around that, fold the scarf down over that again, and I have six or eight layers of cotton fabric that I can pull up over my nose. I just need to get it tucked in around my neck. I’ll make some fitted masks in different patterns, too, just to make it fun. Maybe I’ll try to make some with funny faces.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate wearing masks. I’m a claustrophobe, and that extends to extended mask-wearing. I don’t like the suffocating feel of a mask. I also hate that we can’t see each other’s full expressions when we’re wearing masks. I actually can’t quite imagine how I am going to teach a full day of classes through one of these things. I might have to start trying out hijab styles and see if I can make that work more comfortably. But if mask-wearing to teach is the recommendation for safety and mitigation, I will do it.

I don’t wear my mask when I am walking on our road. That’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. If I lived in a busy urban area where I couldn’t move at least six feet away from passers by, I would wear it. Maybe I would want even more distance, since I pant when I walk fast, and so do the joggers on city streets, and that spreads more droplets. If I was walking down a quiet city street, I might carry my mask with me in case I met an unavoidable situation, but I wouldn’t wear it unless I felt it was necessary to normalize mask-wearing in that context.

Any time I enter a building that is not my home, no matter how few people are there, I think I will wear a mask. When I was cleaning out my classroom last month, I wore my mask in the building, but I was so overheated while I was packing up books in my classroom that I took it off while it was only me or my family in the room. It was probably okay to do that, but really–I should have worn it. It sounds like there’s much less chance of contracting the virus from touching something that’s been breathed on by an infected person; still, it would have been respectful of me to try harder.

So no. I am not suggesting we be unreasonable. I just think that mask-wearing shouldn’t be a source of tantrums and uncivilized behavior. Perhaps the media is latching onto a few isolated cases of immature tantrum-throwers and most people are being mature and community-minded. However, I see people out in close public situations without masks when I make one of my rare forays off the farm. I see people minimizing and scorning mask-wearing on social media. I hear friends’ stories of walking out of places where they went for essentials because so few people were wearing masks and they didn’t feel safe.

Have you heard of the Shopping Cart Test? There is no law that says you must return your shopping cart to a designated place. You can leave your cart in the middle of the driving lane of a parking lot with little likelihood of a consequence. But the vast majority of people know the system and work within it to make it go more smoothly for everyone. Most people are Good Shopping Cart Citizens. Some people suggest that one’s shopping cart etiquette might be a good indicator of their sense of citizenship and civic-mindedness.

Even though it is a governor’s mandate to wear a mask in public places, it appears that there’s not real consequence if you don’t. Most of the stories I have heard suggest that people are not throwing non-mask-wearers out of stores. You can probably get away with it. It’s kind of like choosing to leave your shopping cart behind someone’s car.

If you are resisting the public mask-wearing guidelines, I encourage you to carefully read some CDC literature about how face masks slow the transmission of the disease. I encourage you to look at your motivations for wearing/not wearing. Think about the kind of community you want to live in. Imagine that you might possibly be an asymptomatic carrier and that elderly woman you whose space you’re encroaching on in the line at Lowe’s is your grandmother. Slip a little “do-unto-others” into your pocket. And put on your mask when you go into public places. Let’s be good citizens.

(If you refuse a mask because you just want to “stick it to the Man,” I think you’re woefully misdirecting your rebellion. If you really want to start a Revolution, let’s talk. I’ve got some good ideas. But I’ll only meet you if we can do it outdoors, and we both wear masks.)


Gratitude:
Blue. Blue is always on my intrinsic gratitude list. Yesterday, a blue grosbeak sat on the feeder for a few minutes, his deep indigo drawing all surrounding color into himself. Then a bunting flashed by, and his feathers both absorbed and reflected the surrounding light. Moments later, a blue jay rowed through, showing off the lighter blue at the base of his tail feathers, and the way the black accents on his wings accentuate the deeper blue there. Bluebirds on the wire really do, as Thoreau said, “carry the sky” on their backs. Even on a grey and rainy day, the sky holds the blue that is behind the veil of rain.

If you ask me my favorite color, I would be quick to tell you that it is orange. Orange wakes me up and makes me happy. It encourages my fire and fierceness. But blue is always there. Always behind it all. With sudden flashings out when the birds fly by.

May we walk in Beauty!


“If you are planning for 1 year, plant rice.
If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees.
If you are planning for 100 years, teach your children.” —Proverb


“Life is wonderful and strange, and it’s also absolutely mundane and tiresome. It’s hilarious and it’s deadening. It’s a big, screwed-up morass of beauty and change and fear and all our lives we oscillate between awe and tedium. I think stories are the place to explore that inherent weirdness; that movement from the fantastic to the prosaic that is life.” —Anthony Doerr


“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ―Marcel Proust


Audre Lorde: “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”


“Want what you already have.” —My mother says that my Great-Aunt Mary Ann used to say this.


“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ―Paulo Coelho


“In a time of destruction, create something.” ―Maxine Hong Kingston

Just Wear It

Just wear it.

At first, the scientists and healthcare folks were saying they didn’t know how much good it did. They suggested that it might not matter. But as more people began to study this thing, it became clear that, yes, wearing masks–while not providing absolute protection–can actually provide a medically significant barrier to the droplets which are the main point of infection. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, singing, talking, breathing–these activities spread the droplets that carry the virus. Wear a cloth mask, and you reduce the chances that you are infecting someone else. If you’re both wearing them, the chances are doubly reduced.

Health care workers have been wearing masks to work for decades. Even with asthma. Even with respiratory issues. Cloth masks don’t filter out the fresh oxygen. They don’t hold in the carbon dioxide. They’re not meant to do that. They’re meant to filter droplets. They don’t always do that in a 100% foolproof way, but they reduce the transmission of droplets. They do that enough that the country’s top medical professionals and scientists seem to agree that we should all be wearing them in public places these days.

I’m not a scientist or a healthcare professional. But I would rather listen to their wisdom on this issue than the politicos and the screamers in the agora.

Look. If you call yourself pro-life, you have to wear the mask. It’s the real choice for protecting life. If you call yourself pro-justice, you have to wear the mask. It helps to equalize our chances of survival. If you call yourself a reasonable person, just wear it. Wear it like you wear your seatbelt. Wear it like you wear your bike helmet. Wear it like you wear a jacket to protect yourself from the cold.

This isn’t a conspiracy meant to take away your freedom. It’s not an illuminati cabal meant to mark you as belonging to the beast. It’s not a liberal hoax meant to take down the president and destroy the power of white men. It’s not a fear tactic meant to take away your faith in a God who will protect you.

It’s just a piece of cloth that will help to hinder the droplets that could cause one person to infect another. It’s just basic good citizenship.

Just wear it. Please.


Gratitude List:
1. Hummingbird is back. Yesterday she spent a long time drinking from the mini-petunias, then gazed in the window at me.
2. My bridges. My anchors-with-wings. My voices in the storm. My clear-eyed gazers. I am blessed in friends who keep me from flying off in the gales–unless flying is what is best for me, of course. Friends who remind me who I am. Friends who keep me woven within the narrative.
3. The yellow iris. I know they’re invasive and weedy. I know we have to cut them back or they’ll choke the pond. I also now that they’re beautiful and resilient. You cut one stalk, bring it inside, put it in water, and one flower blooms. That one dies and another blooms below it. Then another and another. This one is on its fifth or sixth bloom. And they’re the fiercest sort of yellow.

May we walk in Beauty!


“In ancient Africa, in the Celtic lands, storytellers were magicians. They were initiates. They understood the underlying nature of reality, its hidden forces. The old Celtic bards could bring out welts on the body with a string of syllables. They could heal sickness with a tale. They could breathe life into a dying civilization with the magic of a story.” —Ben Okri


“I will no longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply inside.” —Rosa Parks


“The historian deals with the past, but the true storyteller works with the future. You can tell the strength of an age by the imaginative truth-grasping vigour of its storytellers. Stories are matrices of thought. They are patterns formed in the mind. They weave their effect on the future. To be a storyteller is to work with, to weave with, the material of time itself.” —Ben Okri


“Storytellers are the singing conscious of the land, the unacknowledged guides. Reclaim your power to help our age become wise again.” —Ben Okri


“If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.” —Rev. Michael Curry


“I just want to celebrate you as you are, instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.” ―Rachel Macy Stafford


“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories. . .water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” ―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“Do you have an unconscious belief that the forces of evil are loud, vigorous, and strong, while good is quiet, gentle, and passive? Gather evidence that contradicts this irrational prejudice.

“Are you secretly suspicious of joy because you think it’s inevitably rooted in wishful thinking and a willful ignorance about the true nature of reality? Expose these suspicions as superstitions that aren’t grounded in any objective data you can actually prove.

“Do you fear that when you’re in the presence of love and beauty you tend to become softheaded, whereas you’re likely to feel smart and powerful when you’re sneering at the ugliness around you? As an antidote, for a given amount of time, say a week or a month or a year, act as if the following hypothesis were true: that you’re more likely to grow smarter when you’re in the presence of love and beauty.” ―Rob Brezsny


“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz


Mary Oliver:
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited the world.”


“If someone asks, ‘What does perfect beauty look like?’
Show him your own face and say, like this.” —Rumi

girl-with-death-mask-221x300
Girl With Death Mask, by Frida Kahlo

I have never seen this one before.  I post it today because it is one of the images that Robert Brewer offers as inspiration for writing an ekphrastic poem (a poem inspired by or connected to an image).

You have been walking through desert for centuries,
walking for hundreds of miles toward mountains.
Suddenly there in your path stands the guardian.

Every quest, every dream, every task has its challenger–
She who will stand at the gate of your destiny,
waiting to ask you the questions you came for:

What is the thing that you fear?  Can you face it?
What is the name of the monster that haunts you?
Can you look death in the eye and say, “Feed Me”?

If She reveals Herself at your parting,
you must be ready to hold what She offers you:
a small golden aster and three white-hot stones.

Gratitude List:
1. The principals at my school.  They’re thoughtful, supportive, restorative, and they have a keen and careful vision for the school community.
2. This morning a small boy asked me to do stretches with him, like they do in school every morning.  I love that his teacher is teaching them to stretch as well as to read.
3. Challengers.  I am trying really hard to turn this one into a gratitude.  Deep, deep down, I truly am actually grateful for yesterday’s challenger moment.  (Perhaps I need to do some more stretches to help that bit of gratitude bubble upward.)
4. Autumn wind: it calls me to adventure.
5. The helpers.  All those people in Paris and Beirut who ran to help, who offered safe houses, who hugged and held and helped.  It seems to be too much of a truth today that some people will lash out and try to harm.  But as much of a truth and greater is that more people will rush in to help and to heal.  May it always be so.

May we carry healing with us wherever we go.